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Russian Parties Stage Walkout, Blame Putin

Russian opposition lawmakers leave the State Duma in protest against the results of local elections.
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Three Russian parties have walked out of parliament in a rare act of protest against October 11's disputed elections, with the Communist Party blaming Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for an unworkable system.

Opposition leaders and independent observers said the vote was rigged and turnout was much lower than reported.

The win means the United Russia party -- backed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and nominally led by Putin -- retains power in key locations, including Moscow city, the most populous and affluent region.

None of the three protesting parties -- the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), the A Just Russia party, and the Communist Party -- is usually critical of the Kremlin.

Liberal opposition parties are not represented in parliament and are marginalized in state media.

"What's the point in having a legal system and laws if they only suit one party...? Putin's system of government makes no sense and it simply doesn't work," Vadim Solovyov, a Communist Party deputy at the Duma, told Reuters by telephone.

LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who led the walkout, said, "We demand a meeting with the president."

The Communists followed, and said they were also considering a Supreme Court appeal.

Solovyov said Russia's political situation had "plummeted" to a new low. "At least during the [President Boris] Yeltsin era we kept some Soviet systems that worked. But with Putin, it's pointless and Russia's the worst it has been."

Interfax quoted United Russia Chairman Boris Gryzlov as saying: "I am outraged by today's events. The opposition's sabotage of the plenary session will not disrupt it."

"Elections are now behind us and populist campaigns are pointless," the news agency quoted him as saying.

Medvedev had hailed the elections' results on October 12, saying it was the ruling party's "moral but also legal" right to run the regions.

His comments contrasted with previous pledges by the former lawyer to increase openness in society, reduce lawlessness, and embrace democracy.

But Medvedev now finds himself at the center of the dispute.

"Until we meet him we are not going to participate in the Duma [parliament]," Zhirinovsky said.

The Communists said they also want to speak to Medvedev.

"We need to start a new fight," Solovyov said. "Young people's voices are not being heard.... We shall make a decision on the court tomorrow, although even that will probably not work in this country."

United Russia holds more than two-thirds of the seats in the Duma and can still vote in new legislation.

Russia's Central Election Commission chief Vladimir Churov, commenting on the surprise walkout, told Interfax: "No comment. It is just politics."

Churov has already derided complaints about the elections as "improper hysteria."